Frederick Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which stated that the frontier shaped American history, had five major points. Turner argued that the frontier led to the formation of a composite nationality and a decreasing dependence on England, motivated Americans to quickly develop their country, caused Americans to be more democratic than members of other societies, and served as a safety valve for the discontents of society. While Turner’s argument may have had some validity, there are many counterexamples to refute it, such as the fact that some eastern constitutions were more radically democratic than western ones.
Unaware of how supply and demand affected prices, farmers increased their supply by planting more crops, but this actually hurt them since prices went down. In addition, railroads held farmers in a stranglehold. To help farmers, there were attempts at railroad regulation. Munn v. Illinois (1877) – The Supreme Court upheld an Illinois statute fixing maximum storage rates for grain elevators since grain elevators represented intrastate commerce. Wabash Railroad v. Illinois (1886) – The Supreme Court decided that an Illinois law prohibiting rate discrimination by railroads for long and short hauls was unconstitutional because it infringed on the exclusive right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Interstate Commerce Act (1887) – Congress passed this law to regulate interstate railroad abuses. It forbade rebates, long and short haul discrimination, pooling agreements, favoritism in rate making, and unreasonable freight rates. It set up the Interstate Commerce Commission to administer the law.
The Populist Party, whose ideas were adopted by the Democratic Party, argued for bimetallism, the monetary system based on gold and silver. Farmers supported bimetallism because it caused inflation, so it increased prices. City-workers opposed bimetallism because it increased living cost and decreased wages. In the election of 1896, William McKinley (Republican) defeated William Jennings Bryan (Democrat).
Why was William McKinley assassinated?